A Whim of Truth in the Lecture Room

We were all silent, the silence that comes not because of fear, or sadness, or something close to awe or wonder, not at all. We were silent because truth does nothing but silence those on which it has dawned. I swear upon my word, that if you find a scenario you may consider to be a truth, and it doe s not silence those it has fallen upon, then you have totally misjudged the whole thing, for truth must silence, it must strike people dumb, and toothless too. And we were dumb and toothless in this room, save the African Literature lecturer that stood before us like a priest revealing the doom of apocalyptic days. Even him, the carrier of this truth, seemed to be struck as well, for he paced up and down the room, gazed up the ceiling, as if reading certain revelations, and when he brought the head down, and directed his bespectacled eyes towards us the ignorant, and spoke, one could easily discern in his voice the thunder that has always been dreamed of.

“Don’t be fooled by the politics of education and civilization, they are structures that have been put in place to make us accept the unequal distribution of resources in this country, and elsewhere. It is all the work of a malicious being, whether in heaven or here on earth. And the more I think of the impossibilities of a malicious being in those clouds, the more I come to believe that he is here on earth, this selfish being, he is within our elite community, within our leaders. All these structures have been deliberately formed to enrich this mighty being, and indeed he grows the potbelly”.

He paused. We were all suspended in the air. The room was no longer a physical room, we were all in space, gazing down on the world below, playing the gods, and making resolutions about the future of mankind. The lecturer before us was the godhead, pronouncing the doom that would befall mankind. The order upon which the society rested, and still rests, was brought into this room, dissected, and altogether trashed by this godhead.  And I should admit that I agreed with him.

“They knew that we wouldn’t be comfortable with few people enjoying the precious resources within the society. They knew that in our ‘ignorant’ state, we wouldn’t accept that capitalism and democracy is the key to society’s development. Indeed, they knew, that we wouldn’t accept that only so and so should have access to the milk and honey of the society. So they constructed these structures, these walls, to guard themselves against our wrath. And they have achieved it well. These structures have really conditioned us. Are you not taught right from Junior School that Democracy is a beautiful thing? Haven’t you seen people being thrown into prisons just because they were trying to have access to the resources of the society? Tell me, haven’t you? You are taught to believe, that if you want to have a high status in society, you must accept the doctrines of these selfish minority. And so some are called professors, some doctors, some lawyers, but are they any better than a man in the village who goes to the farm at six in the morning and comes back at six in the evening?……”

At this point someone interrupted. He was a courageous man, this friend of mine, to intrude the godhead like this.

“You mean Sir that actually the educated man is no better than an ignorant village farmer who can’t even afford to buy a bicycle? If so, then why are we here?”

The godhead smiled, not a contemptuous smile, but a smile full of pity. He lowered his glasses down to his nose, eyed the questioner squarely in the face, and then shook his head.

“My son, what is education? The memorization and reproduction of what the selfish top fellas of the society have prescribed. When I was in secondary school I never passed my mathematics exams because I always disagreed with the stupidity of mathematics, so that during exams, when asked to solve a circle, or any geometrical figure, I would just put a very big question mark on the paper, and hand it in. When my angry teacher asked me why I did that, I told him that such geometrical figures cannot exist, and since their formulas are only applicable to the perfect forms, I saw it wise that I should not waste my time, since what was drawn on the paper was always not perfect, for even an accurate protractor cannot measure the exact magnitude of an angle. I would be punished severely because of this, because I did not agree with the ideas that were being forced down my throat. I know you can laugh at me, and you should as a matter of fact. But come to think of it, who is educated, if you know the meaning of education, between the farmer who goes to farm daily and you who sit every day in this lecture room listening to the idealistic theories that are utterly impossible in practical life? Come to think of it, by the end of the day you will still need that farmer to put food on your table, at least before you come here, otherwise all these lectures will be noise to you. So the farmer nourishes us all, we who consider ourselves to be the privileged of our society. But because the top gang, not the society, has decided that the ignorant farmer should not be handsomely rewarded, we have always looked down upon this bread-winner of the society.  We have let him sleep under leaking roofs, walk on barefoot and dress in rags. That is what we have done, you and me in this room. We will see what Ngugi and Karl Marx say about Capitalism in the next lecture.  Enjoy your day, educated ladies and gentlemen…”

... we have always looked down upon this bread winner of the society
… we have always looked down upon this bread winner of the society

We slowly walked out, heads heavy.

Outside, the air was foul, something was driving the dry clouds asunder. I sat on a grey slab by the car park, and watched the sky. The sun that was hidden behind the dark clouds was slowly coming out, slowly but sure, with each emergent ray piercing the heart, stirring up the neurons in my brain. And then, for the first time in college, I shouted:

“Hail the sun that conquers the clouds! Naked before you I stand, a prodigal!”

I did this unconsciously standing, and stretching my hands towards the clouds. Behind me, a feminine voice emerged:

“Literature will drive you crazy”

I looked at her, surprised at the ease with which she spoke these words. Literature? And then crazy? Can’t she see the reality before her naked eyes? Can’t she join me in receiving it from the emerging clouds among the dark clouds? These questiones clouded my mind as I sought the words with which to answer her, and I found them.

“Reality is crazy, daughter of the moon”

“Why are you calling me daughter of the moon?”

“Without the sun, can you shine?”

“What do you mean? That’s the craziness I am talking about, you are so like that Literature lecturer there!”

She rushed forth, like all else before her, leaving me alone on the grey slab. I asked the sun to forgive her, but this time, the sun, like a furnace, was burning hot. Sweat started pouring from the brows of the people that walked aimlessly about the college corridors. It was a rugh day, this day. Angry students were gathered at the Principal’s office, swearing, throwing sugar cane peels, singing, songs of freedom, of oppression, of exploitation. Money meant for the poor students had been mishandled. I rose from my grey slab, and followed the mob up the administration block. The Principal stood at his door, trying to address the angry mob.

“Let us act like civilized men, please gentlemen”

Civilization! What does he know about civilization, this rogue? Oh civilization! The conditioning of the oppressed to accept their fate and resign altogether…The process of degrading the dignity of the poor of our sort so that we accept that we are powerless and therefore at the mercy of those with big offices up the ladder….yes, civilization, the master plan of killing the energy of the oppressed! And mark me my dear readers, the words of my lecturer back in the famous room B came clear in my mind as I eyed the vicious monster of a Principal in front of me. A kick in the belly! A punch in that big mouth! A slap in the face! Hurrah for mob justice! But as I thought about this, something inside me raged against all these ideas, something a result of the conditioning power of Education, something so strong, so full of the energy that it had accumulated all the years of home alienation. Indeed, I relapsed back into my tranquil state. The Principal was there, still talking his shit, the stupid belly still jutting out. I just descended the steps to the normal life bellow.

And the next day, in class, the Lecturer was calm, and smiling too.

“I said that today we will look at Karl Marx and Ngugi Wa Thiong’o. The two scholars are all crazy individuals, crazy in the sense that reality is crazy…”

The daughter of the moon eyed me with admiration, for the phrase ‘reality is crazy’ was exactly what I told her the previous day. But trust me my readers, I had no idea of what I meant by that, it was like I was saying it from my trance, and you know you don’t hear your own words when in a trance. I just smiled.

“What happened yesterday was what Karl Marx called class struggles…..”

He paused.

“But sir, there was no any struggle between our classes yesterday”.

We all laughed. This fellow was always good at bringing humor to the classroom especially when the atmosphere could grow tense. Yesterday, however, he was as well dumb-struck by the truth, so he was silent, like everybody else.

“What I mean is that in a capitalist society people are classified into classes, the oppressors and the oppressed; the lower class and the higher class. It is the higher class that rules over everything, and in a capitalist society, these rulers don’t mind about the laboring class below, they see it as a means to their self-enrichment.

“Then capitalism and democracy should go to hell!” I shouted, again from my trance.

Silence. The class came to a close.




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